Outspoken Salega East Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, has been called a “pencil pusher” who doesn’t know “anything” about international airports.
That’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s response to Olo’s criticisms of the Government’s multi-million-tala Ti’avea Airport.
“He was a pencil pusher,” Tuilaepa said, “that is what I recall of his position at the airport.”
Last week, Olo, a former Technical Manager at the Samoa Airport Authority, raised questions about the safety of the Tiavea Airport.
He warned that lives would be at risk if the Government proceeds as planned.
“I have 18 years of experience and I understand very well how the specs of an airport should be, and where it should locate and I’m telling you that space is very dangerous in terms of shear winds,” he said.
“As you can see all our airports here, they are lying east to west and the reason being is because of the easterly winds that come from that way."
“I have never seen an airport that faces north to south, they are built facing east to west because it measures the landing and the taking off of the plane.”
But Tuilaepa rubbished Olo’s claims, saying he is talking “nonsense.”
In justifying the Government’s plan, Tuilaepa referenced two plane crashes in the past, which he said could have been avoided if there was an airport at Aleipata.
“The plane crashed due to bad weather,” he said. “Now if there was an airport in the area where the project is now underway, there wouldn’t be any crash. History tends to repeat itself and this is why this project is vital.”
He also disputed the claim about the positioning of the runway.
“Airport runways do not necessarily need to lie east to west,” Tuilaepa said.
“I have been all over the world and I have seen runways lying north to south. Where does he come up with all these terms when he is not an engineer by trade?”
Tuilaepa added that despite working for the Samoa Airport Authority in the past, Olo knows nothing about runaways.
“Does Olo know that the traditional honorific of Aleipata is the eye-of-the-storm (matamatagi). Only me would understand that. What that means is that the wind comes from all directions.”
The Prime Minister also justified the need for an airport at Tiavea, saying it is critical in terms of the Government’s future plans.
He said the market for travellers to and from American Samoa will only expand and the Government needs to be proactive in terms of preparations for it.
But Olo is still not convinced.
“That is one of the foggiest locations I know,” he said.
“Fagali’i airport is okay but up there, especially in the evening, which means if we were to build an airport there a lot of people will lose their lives.”
Olo also reminded about another “white elephant” project at Aleipata which cost taxpayers millions of tala.
“This is just the same as the Satitoa Wharf,” Olo said.
“I was the one who totally disagreed with the building of that wharf. But what happened Tuilaepa said ‘I don’t know anything’ and look at it now. Not even two years since that wharf was opened and it’s gone with the wind. It’s a waste of more than $60million tala”